PEARL RIVER - This week's fatal train versus bus crash in Biloxi has one Northshore leader sounding the alarm about a railroad crossing he says is just as dangerous.
The Norfolk Southern crossing with Highway 41 in Pearl River has been the site of numerous emergencies where low-lying vehicles have gotten stuck iin recent years. Resident Mark Duplantis has seen some of the incidents first-hand.
"Every now and again, some of the low-boy trailers come through and they're really the only ones that's dragging and pulling up the tracks," he said.
The problem picked up in frequency when construction started on Interstate 59, detouring large vehicles over the tracks.
"We even had an over-sized large looking sailboat," said Pearl River Police Chief J.J. Jennings, "Once they get stuck, we have to try to notify the train company instantly and get them to stop before they get to this intersection."
Jennings says the source of the situation is two-fold; the crossing's grade is too steep on one side, and the concrete flaps in between the rails come loose, popping up when heavy loads cross then snagging any low-lying vehicles passing over.
Jennings' constant complaints about the crossing led to a warning sign going up near the end of the year, but he says, shortly after, another trailer got stuck.
Since that last incident, one major thing has changed. The concrete flaps, which get loose, have been replaced with more solid asphalt. But the problem for Jennings is that it's only been changed on one set of tracks.
"It's going to happen again until all of these pieces are gone," he said, "The grade is a problem, but this is more of a problem."
State Senator Sharon Hewitt says she's got her eye on it.
"For now, I'm reasonably comfortable with the work that's been done to date," said the lawmaker from Slidell, "But, of course, it is something that will be on our radar and if we get into a situation again where we feel like we're having some safety issues, it'll be something we'll jump on right away."
The Department of Transportation and Development says it's currently working on a plan with the railroad company to improve the grading of the crossing. In-house staff is designing the project, while another unit is on the hunt for funding.
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